Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 'C' Word

Two articles from the BBC about the United States, seperated in time and context, but with an eerily similar theme:

The Wild West museum will never see the light of day. Harrisburg is holding a final auction to sell off Mr Reed's collection. The city hopes to recoup some of the public money - estimated at between $8m and $15m - that Mr Reed spent putting it together. But it will barely make a dent in the city's colossal debts. "We have to deal with the reality of contemporary times," says Robert Philbin, spokesman for Harrisburg's current mayor, Linda Thompson.

A decade of war and a nationwide recession put paid to Mr Reed's ambitions, Mr Philbin says, adding that Harrisburg is by no means unique. The government in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania voted in October to declare bankruptcy So could other cities face similarly dire prospects?

"Harrisburg's not a harbinger of what's going to be happening with cities in the rest of the country," says Christopher Hoene, of the National League of Cities, a non-profit association of cities and municipal leagues. "Municipal bankruptcy has historically been rare," he says, noting that since it became a legal option in the 1930s there have only been a few hundred cases across the country.

In recent years, only two other cities - Vallejo, California and Central Falls, Rhode Island - have declared bankruptcy. But for Harrisburg's long-suffering residents, one-third of whom live below the poverty line, it is hard not to see the city's woes as part of a wider phenomenon. "Harrisburg's just a small microcosm of what's going on in the United States," says Angela Jenkins, beating a drum at a small Occupy Harrisburg protest camp, down by the slow-moving waters of the Susquehanna river.

"Everything here's starting to collapse, just as it is nationally."

Bankrupt Harrisburg Hold Wild West Auction (BBC)
15 November, 2011

Banks stand to lose millions of dollars in debt repayments if the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history is allowed to proceed. But the real victims of the financial collapse in the US state of Alabama's most populous county are its poorest residents - forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets after being cut off from the mains supply.

And there is widespread anger in Jefferson County that swingeing sewerage rate hikes could have been avoided but for the greed, corruption and incompetence of local politicians, government officials and Wall Street financiers. Tammy Lucas is the human face of a financial and political scandal that has brought one of the most deprived communities in America's south to the point of what some local people believe is collapse.

The scandal of the Alabama poor cut off from water (BBC).
14 December 2011

Remember, this is the BBC, not CollapseNet or Life After The Oil Crash.

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